Kill the e-brake: How to stop screwing yourself over

I loved this TED Talk by Mel Robbins so much that I just had to share. In it, she touches on some frighteningly familiar ways in which we self-sabotage our dreams and carve out little ruts of spiritual dormancy in our lives.

If this sounds depressing to you, that’s a good sign! But don’t let it keep you from watching the video- Robbins also does a stellar job of encouraging the watcher to get busy livin! At least, that was the effect it had on me. I’ll let you decide for yourself..

Here are my top takeaways from the talk for after (or before) you watch:

Change is uncomfortable.. for everyone

I love how Robbins uses the very tangible example of getting in shape, because it reminds me of a quote from my favorite workout DVD!

During the cool down in one of her Ripped in 30 workouts, Jillian Michaels addresses her exhausted viewer in the most confident of tones, saying:

Transformation is not a future occurrence; it’s a present activity.

When I hear that, I think, “Oh yeah, that’s why my muscles are so damn sore. They’re growing, and that hurts!”

And that’s exactly what I want- to grow and get stronger.

A slightly less noticeable way I’ve gotten stronger by getting uncomfortable is in my interviewing skills. When I first started writing for the newspaper, I tried to stick with covering events or getting information via email because I was afraid to call people and talk to them. I’m extremely shy and have always hated talking on the phone. (I didn’t become a writer for nothing!)

When I first pushed myself out of my comfort zone to actually do this, my voice sounded really weak and shaky in recordings. I was so awkward, listening to myself made me cringe. I’m actually cringing right now just thinking of it.

But in just a short period of time, I got over it. Maybe I realized that, more often than not, the person on the other end of the interview is just as shy as I am? Maybe I started to realize there was nothing to be afraid of? Maybe I just got so busy that I couldn’t waste time freaking out about it?

Either way, when I listen to recordings now, my voice sounds clear, confident and very in control of the interview.



Exploration is essential for a healthy soul

Our minds, like our bodies, need to stretch, flex and bend in order to stay fit. When was the last time you challenged yourself to try something different?

Robbins mentions that adults need to parent themselves, which I think is brilliant! The most important thing I learned from years of working with kids is that adults need periodic reviews of the lessons we try to instill in children.

Eat well; Get enough sleep; Try your best; Share your toys; Don’t tattle; Show respect; Don’t fret about what someone else is doing, only worry about yourself.

I’ve been covering local politics in small, rural communities for the past two years, and can say with utmost certainty that most adults really need a refresher course on how to be a good kid.

We don’t just stop learning and growing as adults. It’s a lot more challenging to learn as an adult, but that’s no excuse for a static soul.

It’s not like you have to quit your job, sell all your things and travel to a different hemisphere (although I did, and it was awesome.) Start a new hobby. Take the first step toward the career you wish you had. Take one of the bajillion free online courses in pretty much any subject you could imagine!

Get out of your head

This one really hit me hard. I definitely spend too much time in my own head, and that’s where ALL THE ANXIETY comes from. It’s not you, it’s me!

My friend shared a photo on Facebook recently that reminds me of this


Rivers and women are powerful, always flowing with determination and shaping the world around them. When I saw this, I commented that sometimes, I feel more like a whirlpool.

The energy that often drives me forward to pursue my dreams sometimes gets trapped in self-constructed barriers and just swirls back over itself until I can’t think straight. It sucks me right under.

At times like this, I feel stuck. What helps that icky feeling go away?

Connecting with other people (like you!) We’re all in this together.

The 5 second rule

This was my favorite! It’s something I’ve noticed in my own life. If I overthink something or hesitate too long, I’m going to fuck up or talk myself out of it.

But if I just act in that fleeting moment of confidence that occurs whenever an idea busts loose, I can nail it.

There is no better example of this than my pseudo cliff-jumping story.

A few years ago, I competed in a Super Spartan race with a group of friends. One of the obstacles along the 12-mile course was a “cliff jump.” (The race took place at a ski/mountain bike park that had an artificial cliff built over a deep pool of water.)

I’m afraid of heights. In fact, earlier in the race, I froze atop a high A-frame, unable to swing my leg over the top because I was so scared. My teammate had to climb up the opposite side and help me over.

As we were standing in line to jump off the cliff, I was literally shaking from nerves. What made it worse was this one woman who was clearly just as terrified as anyone else. She stood at the edge, looking down, arms crossed over her chest, and freaked out. Not once, not twice, but many several times this happened. She was holding up the line and making everyone else behind her really agitated.

It was driving me NUTS! I granted everyone on my team permission to throw me over the side if I made such a scene.

Finally, the race volunteer manning that obstacle told the woman she would have to step aside and let someone else jump.

I was three or four people deep into the line when he turned and asked, “Is anyone ready to jump NOW?”

**Flash of courage**

I don’t recall actually making a conscious decision to raise my hand and shoulder my way to the front while saying, “I’m ready!”

It just happened.

The volunteer was telling me how I was supposed to cross my arms or my legs or something like that. I didn’t really hear him, because I walked straight off the edge of the cliff without stopping for a microsecond.

Before I even had a chance to feel the fall I was so scared of, my head bobbed out of the water and beamed a smile up at the ball of nerves still holding up the show. “That was easy!” I yelled. She was still standing near the edge, hugging herself and pissing off everybody behind her.

I’m STILL afraid of heights, by the way. But it’s always much easier to do something than it is to worry about doing it.

In that example, all I had to do was get myself off the edge, and gravity took care of the rest. In my every day life, I try to take advantage of the moments of courage to ask for things I want, pitch my ideas to editors and run races I’m not sure I can finish.

Bottom line: Trying your best and knowing that a great deal is out of your control > spinning yourself into an immobile cocoon of anxiety.


Anyway, listen to the TED Talk and tell me it doesn’t make you want to get down with your inner badass!

3 thoughts on “Kill the e-brake: How to stop screwing yourself over

  1. Nice piece. I don’t and never have had a problem with the things mentioned. I came to accept that life was hard at an early age. Everything worth anything requires effort – and usually, lots of it. But at the moment, I’m still not getting what I want. How does that work? Maybe it’s because I have big dreams. Or because I’m not skilled enough yet to make it happen? I found the talk by Mel like watching a teacher talk to disgruntled school kids. (Is that what a hundred million Americans are?) And I disagree with her. Just because you want something it doesn’t mean you can have it. By getting up and out and doing stuff and letting go the emergency brake…all those thing are correct, but they do not guarantee success. Her success maybe, as she obviously makes a good living doing what she does. But everybody? Come on. I couldn’t help thinking as I watched that audience watching her, that most of their ‘problems’ are caused by having too much. They live in the richest country in the world – yet their lives suck? How does that come about? If, for instance, their lives depended on getting what they ‘wanted’ (inserted needed here), nearly all of them would bolt from those seats and make it happen. If they needed food,shelter, warmth, water – basic stuff – they’d all be winners in a day. But they already have all that, so what is it that they think they want (need) to be happy?
    Motivation in the western world (I’m not sure about elsewhere, as I haven’t been there, so excuse the generalisation) usually grows from what we’re sold/told that we need to be happy, and it’s usually acquisitive – get more ‘things’. In fact, the brake she mentions I think is also there to stop us overloading on stuff all the time, but seen here as something negative!
    However, to end on a more upbeat note, I do think that striving towards ANY goal is totally important. Because when we’re doing that, we’re actually present. Finding out what’s inside. Big adventure every day.Nobody should ever be bored, dissatisfied etc. Just getting what you want all the time is not healthy. But striving for it?
    Can you imagine just pitching up and winning every race you entered – you’d be a Nazi within months. :)

    1. Haha! Yes, this is probably a privileged American problem. I totally agree that it’s unreasonable for anyone to expect they’ll get whatever they want. I also agree than chasing goals is ultimately pointless.
      I think the important thing is effort.
      I observe a lot of adults getting lazy, giving up and settling for the path of least resistance. And then, they get depressed and complain about it. Hell- I’ve been there myself!
      Again, it’s probably because I’m a spoiled brat and have never worried about where my next meal is coming from. I totally understand that most people in this world are not as fortunate as I am, but they’re probably not reading my blog ;)
      I interpret this as Robbins giving a kick in the pants to anyone who is waiting around for someone else to assume responsibility for their happiness and well-being.
      High five for getting there already!

      1. A kick in the pants is justified. And you’re right – it’s all about effort. If my parents taught me anything, it was… actually, they didn’t teach me anything. I do know, however, that you can kick someone as hard as you like in the pants and elsewhere, and as soon as you’re gone, they’ll stop moving – unless THEY want to make tracks.
        I’ve got short legs, but big boots and are therefore able to kick my own behind.
        I quite enjoyed the speaker btw, she’s funny. It’s just that whenever I see any ‘life coaches’ it just brings out the cynical ol’ Englishman in me!

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